SAF was established in 1977. It grew out of the Young People’s Refuge (YPR), the first youth refuge in Sydney. Workers there began to realise that refuges could not meet the long term needs of young people, particularly those under the age of sixteen. In 1984, the two agencies mutually agreed to separate and YPR moved to a separate house. In 1984, SAF was allocated a house by the State Government Premier’s Department special funds for youth accommodation (Stanmore House).
In 1991, the agency restructured its programme to be able to respond to changing needs. Young people with a variety of placement needs are now worked with by the agency. Some of these eventually return to live with their families of origin, some are fostered, others go into a supported boarding placement. A number of young people need long term residential care in an environment that is responsive to their individual needs.
In the 1992 SAF Programme Evaluation, a recommendation was made to expand its service to provide long term accommodation and a Living Skills programme for young people who cannot be placed in other situations. This expansion was seen to be a logical extension of the work in which the agency was involved.
In mid 1994, the agency was invited by the Department of Community Services to tender for the provision of a long term transition to independence programme in the inner west. This tender was successful. The “On Track” program opened on the 19th December 1994 in Canterbury. A grant was received from the Department of Housing in 1998 and following extensive community activity, the service is now based at Roselands (since September 2000).
In November 2004 SAF became the fifth agency in NSW to receive five years accreditation from the Office of the Children’s Guardian. SAF has continued to be an accredited out-of-home care agency since that time. In 2007 SAF celebrated its 30th Anniversary. In 2009, SAF re-located the Administrative Division and the Foster Care Program to a new office located in Marrickville which is now the agency’s head office.
In October 2008 SAF received a five year funding contract from the Department of Community Services to fund all our programs through the NSW Dept of Community Services, Out-Of-Home Care (OOHC) funding. The receipt of this welcome news was followed by a period of negotiation with our Department of Community Services (DoCS) partners.
In November 2010 SAF achieved a 5 year accreditation certificate from the Office of Children’s Guardian based on the NSW OOHC Standards. SAF was able to showcase to the Guardian how the agency is committed to high quality care standards and beginning to implement a therapeutic direct care residential model.
In 2011, SAF remodelled our Stanmore House residential program and was able to up skill staff to deliver a therapeutic residential model for young people from 12-16 years. The focus of On Track Program continues to be a transition to independent living program for young people from 14 -18 years.
Although it is still considered to be a small agency, SAF has made a significant contribution to the area of out-of-home-care for the last three decades. Its programs are constantly upgraded and refined. SAF’s challenge is to ensure that its services continue to be responsive to changing needs of children and young people in our society. It is a challenge that the agency will continue to meet for as long as the need exists!
SAF’s roots lie in the philosophy of offering homeless young people an alternative to institutional care. SAF has a history of working towards legal and social equality for young people and continues to work against all forms of discrimination and persecution against children and young people. Over the years, SAF has developed a professional image and is highly regarded in the field of adolescent out-of-home-care. We are frequently called upon to share our expertise with workers from other agencies in Australia and overseas and recently started to provide foster care placements to children as young as 7 years old
Over the years, SAF has worked with several hundred young people, many of whom come back to visit from time to time. Our work with young people has earned us the respect of many of our colleagues in the area of out of-home-care. We continually seek to improve the quality of our service and to respond to changing needs.